Religion – Seeking Buddha in Delhi
A German student discovers a Tibetan Buddhist Center in the city.
From February to July this year I studied at IIT Delhi as an exchange student. Being interested in Indian spirituality and especially in Buddhism, like many others in the West, I soon found a peaceful refuge from the hustle-and-bustle of Delhi.
The Tushita Meditation Center is in the exclusive Padmini Enclave at Hauz Khas. Making my way through a leafy garden I descend into a basement along a row of most beautiful Thankas, the Tibetan religious paintings. In a room dimly lit by candles, beside an altar as richly decorated as in any Tibetan temple, a golden life-sized Buddha smiles knowingly. The white Khatas – the traditional honour-scarves – in the hands of the statue and the seven bowls of clear water in front of it hints at the active practice conducted here. The large bookshelf perhaps follows the knowledge-centered focus of Buddha’s teachings. After all, his last words were – “Work on your own salvation!”
I am greeted by Yeshe Chochon, the nun running the centre along with Ms. Renuka Singh, professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University. Yeshe’s clearly European features surprise me. It turns out she came to India in 1975 from Norway; met her teacher; and felt such a strong connection that she never returned home following her second trip to India.
Soon the visitors coming for the meditation start trickling in. Why am I surprised by half of them being Westerners? Am I not one of them? Ah, the modern times – bringing the Buddha Dharma to the West and flat screen TVs to India. The cycle will continue.
After everyone is seated, some gently guided by Yeshe to the posture most comfortable to them, she opens the session.
“I go for refuge until I am enlightened to the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. By the virtuous merit that I collect by practicing generosity and other paramitas, may I attain the state of a Buddha in order to benefit all sentient beings.”
The meditation will have two sessions. Each with a duration of twenty minutes. Too short for an experienced practitioner but good enough for newcomers. Meditation, anyway, is difficult for beginners. (Who would have imagined the kind of mess we have in our heads?)
Finally, the session gets over. Smiling faces and calm voices fill the room. Some happily return to the outside world. Others linger a litter longer, exchanging a few words or simply soaking up some more of the atmosphere. Another step towards happiness or so I hope.
Now when I’m back in Germany, I look back and realize that Tushita had offered me so many things: a glimpse into Tibetan style meditation, and an escape from the loud everyday life of Delhi. I also made a good friend there – Tarun, the modern businessman (not the most unlikely person to meet there). I also saw and heard Tenzin Palmo and Lokesh Chandra speak, two of the most inspirational persons I ever had the pleasure to meet.
What better way to end than with this dedication from the book Yeshe gave me one evening, Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment by the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso:
“May this world be free of sickness, starvation, warfare and weapons of mass destruction. May we all be able to accumulate the necessary facilities for our own well-being and for the attainment of peace in the world, and may we develop the ability to extend our affection and love beyond ourselves so that we can all learn to help and care for one another better.”